How to travel with a cat, according to a veterinarian

Traveling can be a nightmare. The packing, the traffic, the security lines, the costs – it’s pretty amazing what we put ourselves through just to get away. But traveling with cats is a completely different matter that I have personally encountered.

In 2016, I moved from California to upstate New York with my two cats, Daisy and Fredo. There was a long layover between flights so we had a good eight hours of travel time during the day. Neither cat liked the trip; Daisy howled and thrashed around her carrier the whole time while Fredo froze in place, refusing to meet my eyes.

How to travel with a cat

Dr. M. Kathleen Shaw of Latham Animal Hospital in Latham, New York, says these types of reactions are common in cats prone to anxiety. The trick is to do everything you can beforehand to keep your fur baby calm.

Using Feliway, which comes as a spray or wipes, is one way to do it. “It’s a calming pheromone,” she says. “We can’t smell it, but cats can. It’s been proven to reduce stress and seems to really help a lot of cats when they travel.” Another option is to put something that smells like you, such as a t-shirt, in the carrier.

Feliway Adaptil Cat Comfort Wipes, 12 Ct

Gildan Blank T-Shirt

Before taking any road or air travel, make sure you have the necessary items to keep your cat safe. “Always carry a copy of your cat’s medical records with you,” says Dr. Shaw. “And put an ID tag on your cat that contains your cell phone number.” That way, if your cat runs away while you’re on the road, you can be reached.

ROAD iD Cat ID label

I’ve found that having a few extra items is helpful:

A disposable pad that absorbs urine and makes the carrier a little more comfortable.

DryFur Pet Carrier Pads Small 19.5

Moist wipes, small trash bags, and disposable gloves to clean cat poop from the carrier.

Grooming cloths for dogs and cats

Small Glad Garbage Bags

SAFESKIN disposable nitrile gloves in POP-N-GO packaging*

Bib and strap in case we need to open the carrier during downtime to clean it.

Catit Nylon Adjustable Cat Harness and Leash, Large, Black

A small container of dry treats.

Collapsible dog bowls for travel, 2 pcs

A bowl of water and a bottle of water to offer during our stay.

Prima Pet expandable/collapsible silicone food and water bowl

Should you give your cat anxiety medication when you travel?

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